Ukraine, Solomon Islands, and Palestine: what are we are missing? (5/rima)
Finland, Sweden, Novorossiya, and Incorrect Analyses
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Putin has made much of NATO's supposed expansion to the east. As I wrote on 1 April:
Much has been made of Putin's apparent anger that Ukraine was on the verge of joining NATO.
However, this has been over-stated by both Western pundits, Putin, and other Russian officials. In December last year, Putin issued a clear ultimatum:
“Speaking of security guarantees … our actions will not depend upon the negotiations, they will depend on the unconditional compliance with Russian security demands.
We have made clear that any further NATO movement to the east is unacceptable. We’re not threatening anyone,” the Russian president said, claiming that Russia’s being threatened instead.
You must give us the guarantees. It is up to you, and you must do this immediately, right now, instead of keep talking about this for decades.”
Russia's "concerns" for NATO's expansion was repeated ad nauseam by media, pundits, and critics of the Western policies:
Except... it was never so.
For Putin, the invasion of Ukraine was about Novorossiya - Greater Russia. Along with imperial ambitions, a Quixotic "manifest destiny" to absorb Slavic peoples into Putin's expanding so-called "Federation", and the regaining of prestige lost after 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was always about pride, ego, and fond memories of lost super power status.
Final proof of mistaken punditry and media naivete came on 16 May when the Russian President publicly stated:
“As for the expansion [of NATO], including through new members of the alliance — Finland, Sweden — Russia wants to inform you that it has no problems with these states,” Putin said on Monday, speaking at a gathering in Moscow of leaders from the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-backed military alliance. “Therefore, in this sense, expansion on account of these countries does not pose a direct threat to Russia.”
So much for Russia's Foreign Ministry threatening repercussions for Finland and Sweden on 26 February:
“Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences.”
How things can change in three months.
Solomon Islands, Ukraine, and Western hypocrisy
Toward the end of March, the media began reporting of a leaked email allegedly purporting a pact negotiated and signed between the Peoples Republic of China and Solomon Islands:"
There was alarm in Canberra, Wellington, Washington, London, and elsewhere that Solomon Islands appeared to be moving into China's “sphere of influence”:
“If genuine, this agreement would be very concerning. Such agreements will always be the right of any sovereign country to enter into.
However, developments within this purported agreement could destabilise the current institutions and arrangements that have long underpinned the Pacific region's security.
This would not benefit New Zealand or our Pacific neighbours.” - Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta
“Solomon Islands representatives indicated that the agreement had solely domestic applications, but the U.S. delegation noted there are potential regional security implications of the accord, including for the United States and its allies and partners.
The U.S. delegation outlined clear areas of concern with respect to the purpose, scope, and transparency of the agreement. If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly.” - Un-named person, The White House
“Working together with our partners in New Zealand and of course the United States, I share the same red line that the United States has when it comes to these issues.
We won't be having Chinese military naval bases in our region on our doorstep.” - Scott Morrison, Prime Minister
Mr Morrison's threat of a "red line" echoes that of Russia's warning that Ukraine joining NATO would constitute a... red line:
“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine.
What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now.
Creating such threats (in Ukraine) would be red lines for us...” - Vladimir Putin, President
Western red lines - good.
Russian red lines - bad?
No wonder Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare responded with undisguised annoyance at blatant interference in his country's affairs:
“I realize that Australia is a sovereign country and it can enter into any treaty it wants to, transparently or not. We did not become theatrical and hysterical about the implications this would have for us.”
Prime Minister Sogavare also issued a statement that was not entirely unreasonable, given the West's unsavoury history in toppling “unco-operative” governments:
“We deplore the continual demonstration of lack of trust by the concerned parties, and tacit warning of military intervention in Solomon Islands if their national interest is undermined in Solomon Islands.
In other words, we are threatened with invasion.”
The West has made much of Ukraine's sovereign right to determine it's own future to be a cornerstone of international law:
“Moscow’s actions in Ukraine threaten to set new precedents on European soil, undermining these basic international principles vital to peace and security:
The borders and territorial integrity of a state cannot be changed by force.
Citizens in a democracy have an inherent right to determine their country’s future.” - Dept of State, United States
NATO Allies have been very clear that they continue to believe that a partnership with Russia, based on the respect for international law and commitments, would be of strategic value [...] Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity is at the heart of the rules-based European order. Its security interests must be fully taken into account. - NATO
How did these lofty ideals apply to Solomon Islands? Not well.
The United States respects the right of nations to make sovereign decisions in the best interests of their people [...] the U.S. delegation noted there are potential regional security implications of the accord, including for the United States and its allies and partners. The U.S. delegation outlined clear areas of concern with respect to the purpose, scope, and transparency of the agreement.
If steps are taken to establish a de facto [Chinese] permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly. - White House
We respect the right of every Pacific country to make sovereign decisions. We have regularly and respectfully raised our concerns with the Solomon Islands Government and will continue to do so. We would be particularly concerned by any actions that undermine the stability and security of our region, including the establishment of a permanent presence such as a military base. - Marise Payne, Foreign Affairs Minister
No wonder much of the international community views Western support for Ukraine as sheer hypocrisy. Because that is precisely what we are guilty of: hypocrisy.
And nowhere is that hypocrisy more apparent than in a tiny 'corner' of the world in the Middle East that has been all but forgotten by the West...
Palestine - A Forgotten 'Ukraine' since 1948
Whilst the West actively supports Ukraine's resistance to Russian aggression, it has turned a blind eye to the struggle of 5.3 million people in Palestine (Gaza and Occupied West Bank) and displaced millions more .
Since 1948, Palestinians have been dispossessed of their land by Israeli settlers, aided and abetted by the government of Israel utilising one of the most powerful armies in the world. Land seizures are continuing to the present day, with Palestinians fighting back with far less sophisticated weaponry than their Ukrainian counterparts to the north.
This commonly found infograph (one of several versions) on the internet shows that gradual dispossession of land endured by a population that has largely been disarmed and conquored by Israel and utterly abandoned by it's Arab neighbours in the region:
(Note, the above map is disputed by Jewish World and the Religious Affairs reporter for The Jerusalem Post, Jeremy Sharon, but is confirmed as factual, albeit with two errors, by the Institute for Middle East Understanding.)
What is abundantly clear is that seizure of Palestinian land has been ongoing since 1948. Israel has expanded it's borders or land under its direct control at a time in world history when nearly every other nation has either lost territory or remained unchanged for decades, if not longer.
An estimated 31,227 Palestinians have been killed in conflict with Israel since 1948, with another 32,316 injured casualities. (These numbers aqre most likely an under-estimation.)
The most dramatic was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several former Union Republics of the Soviet Union and Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics became independent sovereign nations in their own right.
Israel's expansion and land-theft has gone largely unchallenged, with ineffectual UN Security Council Resolutions and protection by it's benefactor, the United States.
The land is almost always taken for Israeli settlers:
Zena Tahhan writing for Al Jazeera and The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories have written in-depth of the history of Israel's illegal land grabs and dislocation of Palestinian people. One is from an Arab perspective, the other, Jewish. Both document the injustice and violence that is inconceivable to us here in Aotearoa New Zealand, but has been happening for seventyfour years.
On top of Israeli Army occupation; land grabs by Israeli settlers, seizing water resources, there are multiple killings by Israeli soldiers. Shooting occur on a daily basis and the victims are usually unarmed (or carrying no more than stones). More deadly weapons - especially in comparison to Israeli occupation forces - are rare:
Most are young people. Some are children. The Israeli army usually claims "self defence". Against one of the most heavily armed military occupation forces in the world, unarmed (or poorly armed) local resistance has little chance of succeeding.
The death toll of civilians continues to rise. ReliefWeb - a humanitarian information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - reported a rise in Palestinian deaths this year:
Israeli forces have significantly escalated the killing and repression of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the past several days, following a green light from the political officials in Israel, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said.
Euro-Med Monitor's field team documented the killing of 18 Palestinians in the first half of this month, most of whom were killed following statements by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on 8 April, granting a mandate to the Israeli army to wage an unrelenting war on what was he described as terrorism.
Euro-Med Monitor documented the killing of 47 Palestinians, including eight children and two women, by Israeli forces in various incidents since 2022. This number represents nearly five times the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army in the same period last year, which amounted to 10.
The authorization of the Israeli politicians for the army and security to operate with "full freedom to defeat terrorism" seemed to have paved the way for the unjustified excuse to kill and abuse Palestinian civilians at military checkpoints and in the cities, villages, and towns of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In case anyone missed how Israel's regime and it's military wing kills with impunity, let the recent deliberate murder of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh remind us all.
This is Ms Abu Akleh - or rather, a shrine in her memory:
She was murdered on the morning of 11 May as she was doing her job for Al Jazeera, reporting from Jenin, a Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank:
Abu Akleh was covering a raid that was being conducted by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). It was one of several raids the Israeli military has conducted in Jenin, some of them deadly, amid rising unrest in recent months.
The aftermath of Abu Akleh’s killing was captured on videos that were quickly shared on social media. The footage shows the chaotic moments after the journalist was shot, including attempts by others to reach her body.
This video evidence shows that Abu Akleh suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
As can be seen in the videos, Abu Akleh — along with another reporter who was with her at the scene — was wearing a blue vest clearly labelled “PRESS” as well as a helmet.
This is the blue vest clearly labelled “PRESS Ms Abu Akleh was wearing at the time (left), along with a helmet of the same style worn by her colleague (right):
Despite wearing a flak jacket and protective helmet, a sniper managed to score a direct hit to an exposed part of her head, as Time magazine's Eloise Barry reported:
Video footage taken at the scene shows Abu Akleh wearing a press jacket identifying her as a journalist when she was shot.
Shatha Hanaysha, a journalist for Quds News Network who witnessed the killing, told the Guardian that Abu Akleh was shot in the head even though she was wearing a helmet. “So it is obvious that the one who shot her meant to hit an exposed part of her body,” Hanaysha said. “This is an assassination.”
After much obfuscation, lies, attempts to point blame at Palestinian "militants", the Israeli authorities have admitted one of their soldiers may have been the shooter:
Later on Friday, Israel’s army said the results of an interim internal investigation suggested that its soldiers might have fired the shots that killed the Al Jazeera correspondent and wounded her colleague.
That admission marked a sharp retreat from the initial version of events offered by Israeli officials, who responded to anger over the killing of Abu Akleh on Wednesday by quickly distributing video of a Palestinian gunman firing down an alley during the raid. Officials also released statements calling it “likely” that the journalist was killed by a Palestinian militant, not an Israeli soldier.
Later the same day, however, a researcher for the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Abdulkarim Sadi, recorded video showing that the Palestinian militant had been in a part of the camp that made it impossible for him to have shot Abu Akleh.
Israel’s military then released body camera video of its soldiers retreating from that part of the camp and emerging on a street where armored vehicles were waiting to extract them. Geolocation by the B’Tselem researcher and others showed that the Israeli armored vehicles were parked on the street where Abu Akleh was shot.
The interim Israeli investigation acknowledged that the Israeli vehicles were parked about 200 meters away from Abu Akleh, and said that if she was shot by an Israeli soldier, it must have been because the soldier “fired several bullets from a special slit in the jeep and through a telescopic site at a terrorist … and there’s a possibility that the reporter stood near the terrorist.”
US Congressional law-makers have condemned the murder of Ms Abu Akleh - but few have mentioned Israel by name. Contrast the luke-warm condemnation of Isrtael by the US government with their willingness to not only condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine - but to publicly label President Putin, by name, as a war criminal:
Meanwhile, the United States continues to fund Israel:
“The State Department is already trying to rush through $735m [million] in additional weapons sales on top of the annual $3.8bn [billion] American taxpayers provide Israel every year,” Mohamad Habehh, a national development coordinator with American Muslims for Palestine, told Al Jazeera.
“To come to the United States and ask for another $1bn [billion] after the wholesale destruction of Gaza, after the murder of over 60 children, is unfathomable.”
Protesters rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on May 29 to demand an end to US aid to Israel after the Israeli military's 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip left more than 200 Palestinians dead [Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP]
President Biden is yet to accuse Israel's President Isaac Herzog or Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as war criminals.
The United States is yet to support Palestinian people against Israeli aggression, as they have done for Ukraine against Russia.
The West is yet to slam international boycotts on Israel as it has done so on Russia.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced it is sending an investigative team to Ukraine to investigate alleged war crimes by Russia:
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sent its “largest-ever” team of experts to Ukraine to investigate alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion in February, according to the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based court.
Karim Khan said on Tuesday that the 42-member team comprised of investigators, forensic experts and support staff “advance our investigations into crimes falling into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and provide support to Ukrainian national authorities”.
The ICC is yet to investigate Israel's alleged war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
The world has condemned Russia's destruction of hospitals and medical facilities in Ukraine:
The world is yet to issue similar passionate condemnations of Israel's attacks on hospitals, other medical facilities, and medical staff:
The targeting of health facilities and health workers has been a recurring pattern of Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip. Already during Israel’s 2014 military offensive on the Gaza Strip (‘Operation Protective Edge’), the occupying forces damaged 17 of 32 hospitals, as well as 45 primary health centers, causing respectively 6 out of the 17 of them to close during the active hostilities.
At the time, Al-Haq reported the direct targeting of health facilities, in particular the Al-Rahma Association for the Disabled, and nine hospitals, killing 6 civilians and injuring more than 70. Continuing its policy of targeting healthcare facilities Al-Haq documented substantial damage to healthcare facilities, including coronavirus testing centers and health administrative buildings, during Israel’s 10-21 May military offensive on the Gaza Strip.
In a statement, Health Minister, Dr. Youssef Abu Al-Rish, in the wake of the bombing of the Ministry of Health and Al-Rimal Clinic, denounced "the targeting and the injury of a number of health staff”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented the injury of two health workers on duty between 12 April and 28 May in the Gaza Strip, with 38 health facilities affected in attacks including 10 hospitals and 22 primary care clinics.
The most damning assessment of Israel's violence in Gaza and the West Bank has come from American journalist, Presbyterian minister, author, and commentator, Chris Hedges.
Writing on 16 May, he described the assassination of Ms Abu Akleh in stark, grisly terms:
There were a few seconds when the Israeli sniper saw profiled in his scope Abu Akleh, one of the most recognizable faces in the Middle East. The 5.56 mm bullet from the M-16, designed to spin end over end upon impact, would have obliterated most of Abu Akleh’s head. The accuracy of the M-16, especially the M16A4s equipped with the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG), a prismatic telescopic sight, is very high. In the fighting in Fallujah so many dead insurgents were found with head wounds that observers at first thought they had been executed. The bullet that killed Abu Akleh was deftly placed between the very slim opening separating her helmet and the collar of her flak jacket.
His accusation that this was a deliberate murder was crystal clear:
I have been in combat, including in clashes between Israeli and Palestinian forces. Snipers are dreaded on a battlefield because each kill is calculated. The execution of Abu Akleh was not an accident. She was singled out for elimination.
He was scathing of Israel's lies, deflecting blame, and denials:
The Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister and Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokesperson, for example, immediately blamed the killing of Abu Akleh on Palestinian gunmen until video footage examined by B’Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories exposed the falsehood.
When Israel is caught lying, as it was with the murder of Abu Akleh, it immediately promises an investigation. The narrative shifts from one of blaming the Palestinians to the outcome of an inquiry. Impartial investigations into the hundreds of killings by soldiers and Jewish settlers of Palestinians are rarely carried out. Perpetrators are almost never brought to trial or held accountable. The pattern of Israeli obfuscation is pathetically predictable. So is the collusion of much of the corporate media along with Republican and Democratic politicians. US politicians decried the murder of Abu Akleh and dutifully repeated the old mantra, calling for a “thorough investigation” by the army that carried out the crime.
Mr Hedges pointed out Israel's stubborn refusal to co-operate with international organisations, and flouting of norms:
Israel has a long history of blocking investigations into the plethora of war crimes it commits in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, and the West Bank. It refuses to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) into possible war crimes in the occupied territories. It does not cooperate with the U.N. Human Rights Council and prohibits the United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) for Human Rights from entering the country.
And then, he wrote this, which is staggering in it's implications:
Israel relies on campaigns of terror, with random and indiscriminate killings, to beat back Palestinian resistance. Israeli strategists describe the tactic as “mowing the grass,” part of an endless war of attrition. Israeli terror keeps Palestinians perpetually off-balance, fearful, and living at a subsistence level. This state terrorism also contributes to Israel’s main goal, a slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land.
Note the phrase: "mowing the grass". Mr Hedges has not fabricated the term: it was used in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on 13 May 2021. It was written by David M Weinberg, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS).
According to the Jerusalem Post, JISS was launched in 2017, after a "re-branding", and is described thusly:
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS) bills itself as Israel’s “new conservative security think tank” that “seeks to counter debilitating currents in Israeli defense and diplomatic discourse and recapture the mainstream in Zionist security thinking.”
Efraim Inbar, who headed the BESA Center for 24 years until his retirement last year, is the president of the new institute. Its two vice presidents are also veterans of BESA: Eran Lerman, a former deputy head at the National Security Council, and David Weinberg, who for years served as the center’s spokesman.
That is how hard-line Israeli nationalists - propped up by a military possessing the most lethal weaponry available to humanity, including atomic bombs - describe their continuing oppression; violence, and murders of Palestinians who dare to resist their occupiers.
The murder of Palestinians, including unarmed journalist, Ms Abu Akleh, is "mowing the grass".
Think about that for a moment. That is what how some Israeli's view other human beings: blades of grass to be mowed down.
It is a chilling euthemism for planned executions to keep a population in fear.
And we, in the West, are complicit by the governments we elect.
President Putin may be a deluded warmonger, but he is right about one thing. He has called out Western hypocrisy.
Wikipedia: Novorossiya (confederation)
Washington Post: China signs security deal with Solomon Islands, alarming neighbors
US Department of State: United with Ukraine
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Statement on Solomon Islands
Global Fire Power: 2022 Israel Military Strength
Institute for Middle East Understanding: Palestinian Loss of Land Map
The New Statesman: From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians
Jerusalem Post: Jeremy Sharon
Institute for Middle East Understanding: Fact Check - MSNBC’s Palestinian Loss of Land Map
Wikipedia: Palestinian casualties of war
Wikipedia: Republics of the Soviet Union
Wikipedia: Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics
EU Observer: EU rhetoric fails to stop Israeli land-grab
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: Land Grab
The Times of Israel: Palestinian said shot dead in clashes with IDF troops in protest against outpost
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: Nine months of protesting a new outpost - seven killed and dozens injured in the town of Beita
Bellingcat: Unravelling the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh
Swiss info.ch: Switzerland condemns Mariupol hospital bombing
Foreign Policy: Putin Is Targeting Ukrainian Hospitals. That’s a War Crime
Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Atrocity’: leaders condemn Russian air strikes on Mariupol maternity hospital
The Electronic Intifada: When Israel killed doctors
Al Haq: About
Wikipedia: Chris Hedges
The Chris Hedges Report: The Israeli Execution of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh
Jerusalem Post: Israel must prove it has freedom to defend itself - opinion
Jerusalem Post: New conservative-leaning think tank launched in Jerusalem
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Nuclear Notebook - Israeli nuclear weapons, 2022
Previous related blogposts
Acknowledgement: Malcolm Evans
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